Jesus arrives at Jerusalem and is confronted with incorrect views of both Who He is and How He is capable of such learned teaching.
• Just as He explained the unbelief of the crowd in John 6, here He will also explain the reason for these incorrect views.
• And as is so often the case in the Gospel of John, ground zero for the clash between discerning the “Father’s Jesus” and the “World’s Jesus” is the nature of one’s heart, mind and will.
• Jesus teaches us that only those who “judge with right judgment” can discern the Who and the How.
1) WHERE IS “THE WHO”?
John 7:11–13 (ESV) — 11 The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?” 12 And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.” 13 Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him.
These verses seem to confirm our discussion on the reason why Jesus’ brothers insisted Jesus go to the feast in public.
• A crowd eagerly anticipated His arrival no doubt wanting to greet Him and see what He would do next in Jerusalem.
• As we know, last time He was there He healed on the Sabbath (John 5).
• An action that motivated the Jewish leadership to seek His death.
• Therefore in our text, we most likely have the Diaspora Jews, Judean Jews and/or Galilean Jews talking amongst themselves about Jesus, not the Jewish leadership.
• It is interesting that the Jewish leadership’s hatred of Jesus was so well known that the common Jew feared speaking in public about Him.
• And there discussion as to His identity clearly missed the mark – some calling Him a “good man” and some calling Him a charlatan.
• It is fascinating how many “World’s Jesus’” (“good man”, “leading people astray”, healer, grocery store, teacher, demon possessed, etc.) there are and yet none are truly accurate.
Jesus will soon address, as He did in John 6, why so many of the Jews do not know the “Father’s Jesus”.
2) WHAT IS “THE HOW”?
John 7:14–15 (ESV) — 14 About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. 15 The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?”
As we discussed last time, Jesus went up “about the middle”, i.e., God’s timing not His brothers’ timing.
• The crowd had spent 3 or 4 days discussing His whereabouts and who He was in vss. 11-13.
• Now He arrives alone, there is no triumphal entry.
• He simply went to the temple courtyards and began to teach as the Father led Him.
• And it is here that the Jewish crowds make an interesting transition from talking about Who He is to How His teaching can be so impressive.
• They all seem to know He had no formal training.
BTW – We have had a lesson on how Jesus’ teaching style is one of many ways to see He thought of Himself as God.
3) RIGHT JUDGMENT OF “THE WHO” AND “THE HOW” – JESUS STYLE
John 7:16–24 (ESV) — 16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. 18 The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.
As a side note, Jesus answer in vs. 16 is at odds with what you find quite often today, even in Christianity.
• Jesus does not claim to bring a new message or truth.
• And in that respect, He did not seek His own glory as He says in vs. 18.
• But as He always does, He gives all credit for His teaching to the Father.
• “The age in which Jesus lived did not prize originality. If Jesus had acknowledged that he was self-taught or had originated his own message, he would have been immediately discredited for arrogance” – Kostenberger.
• Listening to Rob Bell on Unbelievable Radio this week, by contrast, one hears someone doing the complete opposite of Jesus’ example in our text – grounding truth in men’s fears and therefore seeking their glory instead of grounding truth in God’s word and glorifying Him.
So now Jesus addresses the crowds’ questions as to How His teaching is so impressive and, underlying that, Who He is.
• Jesus’ answer, “If anyone’s will” lays down a challenge to the Jews to examine their will.
• “The Lord’s challenge to the crowd was simple: If they would humble themselves before God’s Word (wherein His will is revealed) to know and obey it, they would come to a sure realization that His teaching was true” – John MacArthur.
Now we need to explore the relationship between the will and discerning the truth of Jesus.
Right Judgment and the Will:
It is telling here that Jesus does appeal to intellectual arguments, and the various methods of rabbinic teaching to establish that what He was teaching was true.
• Instead He appeals directly to the nature of one’s will and by extension the condition of one’s heart (remember the link between Heart, Mind in Will – John 3, Ezekiel 36, etc.).
• In other words, for one to know that Jesus’ teaching was true and thus from the Father one “must be fundamentally committed to doing God’s will” – D.A. Carson.
o Psalm 40:8 (ESV) — 8 I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”
o 1 Chronicles 28:9 (ESV) — 9 “And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.
• Who are those “fundamentally committed” to doing the will of God?
• Who has the law within their hearts?
• Who are those that “serve Him with a whole heart and with a willing mind”?
This raises a profound circumstance of the depravity of the human condition that impacts our ability to “judge” Jesus’ teaching as true and to make spiritual judgments in general.
• “Finite and fallen human beings cannot set themselves up on some sure ground outside the truth and thus gain the vantage from which they may assess it. Divine revelation can only be assessed, as it were, from the inside. From that perspective the person who chooses to do God’s will discovers that Jesus’ teaching articulates it, that Jesus does not speak on his own but as the Word of God” – D.A. Carson.
• And this is why John MacArthur says, “Accepting or rejecting the claims of Jesus Christ is never a purely intellectual decision; there are inescapable moral and spiritual implications that are also involved”.
We see, then, that Jesus has laid down a fundamental truth.
• In order to know How His teaching is true and learned, and thereby know that Who He is is the Messiah, one’s will must be in submission to God.
• A will in rebellion to God the Father cannot know the “Father’s Jesus”, but only the “World’s Jesus”.
Jesus, knowing they think they do know and seek God’s will through the law then proceeds to address this issue.
• A somewhat similar circumstance as the rich young ruler.
Right Judgment and the Law:
19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” 20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” 21 Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. 22 Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? 24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
Jesus now turns His attention from the relationship of knowing the truth of Jesus’ teaching and God’s will to also include God’s law.
• What exactly is the will of God for the Jew at this time?
o It is to do the will of God as contained in the law.
• Jesus’ rhetorical question in vs. 19 can be paraphrased, “Moses has indeed given you the law” (though in fact circumcision came through Abraham as John reminds us) – D.A. Carson.
• And then knowing how highly esteemed Moses is among the Jews (see lesson’s on John 6), Jesus declares that none of them keep the law even when they know it’s source is God.
Having heard Jesus thus far, the crowd accuses Jesus of being demon possessed in verse 20.
• This comment betrays the fact that Jesus’ point concerning their inability to know His teaching is in fact valid.
• And this accusation made about Jesus is not an uncommon one.
o John 10:20 (ESV) — 20 Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?”
o Mark 3:22 (ESV) — 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.”
Then Jesus further illustrates His point in 21-24:
Jesus readily admits that He healed a man and had Him carry away His mat on the Sabbath, for which He was accused of breaking the Sabbath.
• However, He then points out that they circumcised on the Sabbath.
• If a child was born and the eighth day fell on the Sabbath, the Jews decided to proceed with the circumcision even though it was on the Sabbath.
• When two laws conflicted like this, the Jews employed a “hierarchy of precedence” – D.A. Carson.
• An example – Matthew 12:5 (ESV) — 5 Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless?
• The circumcision took precedence over the Sabbath – the “making whole” a person over the day.
• Jesus was pointing out that using their logic of the “hierarchy of precedence” the healing of a man’s “whole body” took precedence even more so.
Their condemnation of Jesus fails on both their standard (their judgment) of the law and on God’s standard of the law.
• Had they truly sought God’s glory and to do His will as “in the spirit of the law” over “the letter of the law”, this would have been plainly obvious.
• Therefore to condemn Jesus using the letter of the law was to condemn themselves; if He was wrong they were wrong.
o James 2:10 (ESV) — 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.
• This misuse of the law, legalism, indicates that they have chosen not to do God’s will.
• Therefore, as we have just seen, those who do not choose the will of God cannot know, in the way Jesus’ speaks of in our text, that His teaching is true.
• “They have the law: Moses gave it to them (cf. 1:17) and they delight in it. But, like Paul, this passage insists that mere possession of the law cannot guarantee sanctity. Ironically, it guarantees condemnation: ‘not one of you keeps the law’” – D.A. Carson.
But there is more than that here.
• John MacArthur puts it as follows: “If they did not object to the ceremonial cleansing of one part of the body on the Sabbath, how could they object to His healing the entire body on the Sabbath? In this way, Jesus not only exposed their rank hypocrisy (cf. Matt. 12:11–12; Luke 13:10–16), but He also demonstrated that it was permissible to do good on the Sabbath.”
o Matthew 12:11–12 (ESV) — 11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
• The Law of Moses had been corrupted and Jesus’ was here to fulfill it and set it right.
The challenge Christ issued in verse 17 has now come full circle with His words in verse 24.
• “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
• The Jew who truly seeks the will of God and who rejects the corruption of the Law of Moses can be free to recognize both Jesus’ Who and How – the Messiah operating under the authority of the Father.
• Who seeks the will of God and rejects the corruption of the law?
Lesson for Us:
There is a principal here that Right Judgment of Christ is found in:
• A life Seeking God’s Will – Not seeking one’s own will
• Sees Jesus’ teaching as under the Father’s authority – Not Seeing Jesus’ teaching as on His own authority
• Seeks Father’s glory – Not Seeking His (and his) own glory
• Spirit of the Law (Heal on Sabbath) – Not Letter of the Law (Circumcise on Sabbath)
The right hand column is incapable of a right judgment about Jesus, and as we have seen corrupts the law and becomes legalistic.
• It is interesting that even Christians who were brought up in a legalistic Church and family setting have a very difficult time grasping some aspects of the “Father’s Jesus” – like the freedom we have in Christ.
• To teach the letter of the law and not the spirit of the law is a very dangerous thing.
• For example, to teach a Christian to “not drink”, instead of teaching the spiritual principal of being a stumbling block and being filled with the Spirit short sells God’s word and keeps the Christian on milk instead of meat.